"What's New? How Is the World Treating You?"
Table of Contents for the Third Quarter of 2014
On 30 August, the European Union selected its new leaders. The replacement for Herman Van Rompuy, the first president of the European Council, will be the current Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk (born 1957). Federica Mogherini (born 1973), the Italian foreign minister since February 2014, will replace Catherine Ashton as the EU’s high representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy.
The selection of the two individuals is closely related to the crisis in Ukraine. Tusk has been active for years in attempts to broker Ukraine’s cooperation with the EU and is a staunch opponent of Russia’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine. His name often appeared in discussions about Van Rompuy’s replacement. Mogherini is relatively inexperienced, a fact which caused some dissent among some EU politicians, but she is sympathetic to Russia’s position with respect to Ukraine. On the issue of Ukraine, the positions of Tusk and Mogherini likely will bring balance to EU discussions.
The positions of the president of the European Council and the high representative were included in the Treaty of Lisbon, which became valid in 2009, in an effort to provide the EU with visible and effective equivalents to a head of state and a foreign minister.
See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28989875. The official EU announcement about the election is at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/144535.pdf. Background information about Mogherini also is at http://euobserver.com/institutional/125418.
When Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met in Minsk, Belarus, on 26 August, to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, a meeting which ended inconclusively, Putin denied any direct Russian involvement in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry stated on that same day that Russian forces were involved directly in fighting in Ukraine. The United States also revealed that about 1,000 Russians actually were leading the separatist counteroffensive against Ukrainian forces. Furthermore, the Ukrainian military captured ten Russian paratroopers, whom the Ukrainians since have returned to Russia. The additional Russian troops entered Eastern Ukraine to support separatist fighters there whom the Ukrainian military was about to defeat. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, called on the West to introduce swift sanctions against Russia, and there are suggestions that the West should help Ukraine with not only weapons but also intelligence. Russia continues to deny that it has troops in Ukraine.
As the military conflict heightened, the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, warned that his government has uncovered information about the intent of Russia’s Gazprom to cut gas supplies to the European Union in the winter to retaliate against sanctions, a charge the Russians deny. Europe accounts for about 80 percent of Gazprom’s sales. On 29 August, Yatseniuk also released a statement announcing legislation to abolish his country’s neutral status and expressing its desire to enter NATO. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the head of NATO, responded that NATO would welcome Ukraine’s application for membership. Two days earlier, Rasmussen verified Russian involvement in Ukraine. He revealed that the alliance is planning new permanent bases in former East European states to deter Russia because of the nervousness of the Baltic States, which once were part of the Soviet Union, and Poland. Finland also is nervous. It separated from Russia during the First World War and fought a war with Russia over the border between the two countries before the Second World War. Its president, Sauli Niinistoe, said Finland would consider joining NATO because of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Finnish prime minister also linked the country’s interest in joining NATO, a move which does not have the overwhelming support of Finns, to several recent incursions of Russian military jets into Finnish air space. Russians comprise slightly more than 1 percent of Finland’s population.
On 29 August, while at an EU summit, Poroshenko claimed that Russia and Ukraine are approaching “the point of no return” that would lead to open war. At the same time, a separatist leader stated that one objective in the current fighting was to open a corridor between the two rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk that Ukrainian forces had separated. Analysts assume that Russia is not only interested in annexing the Russian population of Eastern Ukraine and gaining control of its heavy industry that supports the Russian military but that it also is interested in a land connection with Crimea, which is one reason it is supporting the separatists. Few have mentioned that approximately 80 percent of Crimea’s water comes from the Dnieper River, which is in Eastern Ukraine. Putin actually caused a stir in the international community when he referred to Eastern Ukraine along the Black Sea as New Russia (Novorossiya), the name for the territory in the nineteenth century when it came into Russia from the Ottoman Empire. On 29 August, Putin heightened the stakes in the struggle over the territory when he told participants of a summer youth camp that it would be best for foreign states not to engage directly in a war with Russia because it is one of the world’s nuclear powers.
EU leaders announced that if Russia does not withdraw its troops and stop supporting the separatists within a week, it will put in place still more sanctions. Russia, which already is seeing its ruble fall and the value of its stocks plummet, likely will ignore the warning. Sanctions are effective in over the long-term, but Ukraine may not be able to hold out against superior Russian forces if the fighting escalates. Negotiations with Russia are pointless, and the Finns announced recently that the US and Russia held secret talks in June about the crisis with no results. Putin recently called for negotiations between Ukraine and the separatists, but he told Ukraine that they need to recognize “the statehood” of Eastern Ukraine. Putin’s spokesman immediately said that Putin meant for Ukraine to give the area broad autonomy. It is becoming more apparent that the West’s only chance to prevent the further partition of Ukraine, shy of military involvement, which the United States and other countries, including France and Germany, have dismissed, is to provide arms and information to Ukraine. That may escalate the conflict because Russia could claim that it needs to defend its interests in the face of NATO encroachment on historically Russian teritory.
A humorous exchange between the Russian and Canadian missions to NATO summarizes Russian intentions. The Canadian mission released a map labeling Ukraine, including Crimea, as “Not Russia,” a nod to the name the separatists and now the Russians are calling Eastern Ukraine, New Russia. The Russian mission released a map that ignored Eastern Ukraine, much of which it cut off the map, showed Crimea as part of Russia, and identified two territories of Georgia as disputed.
In the fighting, rebel forces have taken the Black Sea coastal town of Novoazovsk and are threatening the port city of Mariupol, which is largely Ukrainian. Daily maps and reports from the Ukrainian military about the fighting are at http://mediarnbo.org/?lang=en.
On the eve of talks between Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in Minsk, Belarus, over the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko has accused Russia of sending ten tanks, troops, and other equipment into Ukraine to support the separatist forces. Russia has denied the charge. On 22 August, the 280 truck convoy of aid from Russia had crossed into the border as well without the agreement of the Kyiv government, which called the action an invasion. Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Russia is planning another aid convoy and has sent a list of goods to the Ukrainian government. On 15 August, before the aid convoy entered Ukraine, Kyiv also claimed that its forces had attacked and destroyed several Russian trucks in a different convoy that had crossed the border. These, too, were white, so that they appeared to be part of the aid convoy, but they were carrying military supplies.
The Ukrainian military continues to advance against the rebels, but the conflict continues. On 18 August, rocket fire hit a convoy of refugees near Luhansk, killing dozens. Each side blamed the other. On 24 August, Ukrainian Independence Day, there were reports of rebels parading Ukrainian prisoners of war through the streets and taunting alleged sympathizers.
Poroshenko also announced on 25 August that he is dissolving the Rada and has set early elections for 26 October. Many in Ukraine and abroad expected the move. While one can argue that Poroshenko is attempting to strengthen his support at home for the final push against the separatists and their Russian supporters, another real concern with respect to domestic politics is that Ukraine never held an election since the resignation of former President Viktor Yanukovich. Poroshenko has accused several members of parliament of having supported the Yanukovich and that some now are backing the rebels.
See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/25/ukraine-russian-troops_n_5707993.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592; http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9d411b8c-2c44-11e4-a0b6-00144feabdc0.html; http://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-rebels-accuse-other-attacking-refugee-bus-convoy-110628945.html; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/26/world/europe/russia-ukraine.html?_r=0; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/15/ukraine-russian-convoy/14097225/; and http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/26/us-ukraine-crisis-election-idUSKBN0GP1QU20140826.
The Ukrainian government confirmed that it destroyed part of a Russian column supplying separatists in Eastern Ukraine last night, while a convoy of 280 trucks (there are different reports as to the number of trucks), supposedly carrying relief materials, waits on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border for inspection. The Ukrainian defense ministry stated that the Russian trucks that had crossed the border were white to make them look like an aid convoy. The Russians deny supplying the rebels, but NATO confirmed the existence of the convoy. This was not the first time the Russians crossed the border to aid the separatists, and Ukraine does not view the incident as an escalation or broadening of the conflict.
See http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/08/15/340594790/nato-chief-accuses-russia-of-ukraine-incursion?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140815&utm_campaign=dailydigest&utm_term=nprnews; and http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/15/ukraine-says-russian-vehicles-territory.
A few days ago, a Russian convoy of 280 trucks left Moscow for Ukraine, supposedly carrying water and other humanitarian supplies to war-torn Eastern Ukraine. After a delay and a change of direction, the convoy now is headed for the separatist-held border and most likely the rebel-held city of Luhansk. The Ukrainian government, which sees the Russian gift as a cynical ploy, demands that they inspect the contents of the trucks and that the Red Cross take charge of the materials and their distribution once they arrive in Ukraine. There is no formal agreement between the Russians and Ukrainians, even though the Ukrainians tentatively had agreed to accept the aid, and it is unclear how the Ukrainians would carry out an inspection on any separatist-held border crossing.
As the convoy approaches, the Ukrainian military is closing in on the two centers of separatist-held territory in Eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk. The civilian and military death toll now exceeds 2,000 in the conflict. Shelling frequently hits residential areas, as it did today in Donetsk, and it is unclear if it originates with the Ukrainian military or the separatists. The Ukrainian military advance now threatens the existence of the self-proclaimed republics centered in Donetsk and Luhansk. These two regions have pledged to recreate the eighteenth-century province of New Russia, the historic name for territory that had entered Russia from the Ottoman Empire. The separatist republics are beginning to experience stresses, based on the reports of resignations among civilian and military leaders. Ukrainian success also has led to fears of direct Russian intervention to back the separatists. So far, aside from a troop build-up near the Ukrainian border, there is only evidence of Russia providing aid, military advice, and some covert troops to the separatists.
http://news.yahoo.com/senior-icrc-official-hold-aid-convoy-talks-kiev-075322457.html; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28743478; http://news.yahoo.com/russias-border-ukraine-fighters-military-gear-move-freely-052550936--sector.html; http://news.yahoo.com/senior-icrc-official-hold-aid-convoy-talks-kiev-075322457.html; and
The Russian economy is suffering from sanctions and Vladimir Putin’s policies. Russia has been losing investment from the West because of the sanctions but also because of the appearance of market uncertainty. The cost of living is increasing for average Russians. Capital is fleeing the country for safer shores, and estimates are that Russians have moved approximately $214 billion out of the country since the Ukraine crisis began, and the amount for this year may be about $150 billion. Another problem is that emigration has increased. Russian statistics show that 186,000 individuals left Russia in 2013, a number which is more than four times greater than in 2011. The statistics do not include those who live abroad but retain Russian residency. The Russian economy still is growing, but at a very slow pace, so there is no expectation that economic difficulties will lead to regime change in the near future.
See http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/14/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-image-idUSKBN0GE0DD20140814; and http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323838204579002771427266230.
Vladimir Putin may have scored a victory in the eyes of the international community when he managed to get the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to agree to cease hostilities and return to dialogue in order to resolve the dispute centered on the Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh located in Azerbaijan. The meeting took place on 10 August in Sochi, and the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which France, Russia, and the United States jointly chair, is working to keep the two sides talking and is facilitating the investigation of sniper killings and the elimination of the threat of sniping. See http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/articles-and-commentary/1294-armenia-and-azerbaijan-seeking-compromise.
Russia has banned all foods from the United States and the European Union. The measure will hurt both Western businesses and the Russian consumer because Russia is the second largest market for American poultry and the largest for EU fruits and vegetables. Earlier, there was news that Vladimir Putin wished to avoid sanctions that would negatively impact his country’s consumers and that the Kremlin may ban flights through Russian airspace. See http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/06/us-ukraine-crisis-idUSKBN0G61K220140806.
UPDATE! The 7 August speech of the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, contains the full list of the banned foods from the US and EU. The ban will remain in effect for one year. Medvedev set forth the possibility of restricting flights over Russian airspace. During his speech at the government meeting, Medvedev expressed his opinion that sanctions are counterproductive but that Russia must respond to the actions of other countries. He also presented the ban on Western foodstuffs and sanctions from the West as an opportunity for Russian businesses to boost production, in some cases with government assistance. See http://government.ru/en/news/14199.
As Ukrainian troops continue to make progress against separatist forces in the eastern part of the country, Russia has returned troops and heavy equipment to its border with Ukraine. Furthermore, the Russian government has referred to the situation in Ukraine as a humanitarian crisis, prompting concerns that it will use civilian deaths, flight, and other problems as a pretext for invading Ukraine. NATO is watching the situation, and the Polish prime minister has warned that Russian action against Ukraine may be imminent.
Russia also is considering sanctions against the West, particularly actions that will have a minimum impact on Russian consumers. One possibility is that the Russians will ban flights over Russian airspace between Europe and Asia; however, more Russian flights take place over European Union airspace.
See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-05/eu-airlines-could-suffer-from-russian-airspace-sanctions.html; http://news.yahoo.com/nato-fears-ground-invasion-russia-masses-troops-ukraine-142159887.html; http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/178151,Invasion-fears-raised-after-Russian-troop-build-up-on-Ukraine-border; and
In addition to Ukraine, Russia faces two other problems in its region. The Transnistria standoff in Moldova, which is drawing closer to the European Union, continues to fester. Recent Russian statements regarding the situation prompted the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration has called on the Russians to remove their forces and equipment from Moldova and to rely on a “civil multinational mission with international mandate” to help resolve the issue of the status of the thin stretch of land and its 560,000 people, almost one-third of whom are Russian. See http://www.mfa.gov.md/press-releases-en/498454/.
The other difficulty for Russia is the renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is in Azerbaijan but has an Armenian population. Each side blames the other for the recent conflict, which has claimed the lives of soldiers in both armies. See http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-armenia-azerbaijan-conflict-20140804-story.html; and
These two issues may be small on a world scale, but combine it with Vladimir Putin’s support for the separatists in Ukraine that has been bad publicity for Putin’s government and has brought sanctions on Russians and their businesses. Now, the leaders of the Kremlin are facing continued pressure from a poorly performing economy because of the lack of investment from abroad and capital flight at home. This has prompted The Economist to call the gap between the real value and potential value of Russian stocks and those of other problematic regimes the DOG factor–discount for obnoxious governments. Russia, it is losing approximately USD 1 trillion or USD 7,000 per ciizen. The decline was evident before the Ukrainian crisis because of the Russian government’s steps to eliminate wealthy political challengers by attacking their businesses, as in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and other related economic measures. See http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21608754-bad-governments-cost-investors-fortune-trillion-dollar-boo-boo.
UPDATE! An article in The New Eastern Europe analyzes recent evidence demonstrating that the leadership of Transnistria may be pursuing policies that support Russia on the surface but that show it has its own agenda. Internal politics and revenge are as crucial as good relations with Moscow, and Transnistria is seeking at least a correct relationship with Ukraine. Because of the need for Transnistria to trade not only with Moldova but also Ukraine, Transnistria is not supporting the breakaway pro-Russian government in Eastern Ukraine. See http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/articles-and-commentary/1286-transnistria-s-difficult-choice.
UPDATE! Another article in The New Eastern Europe focuses on disturbing limits to human rights in Azerbaijan, where the president, Ilham Aliyev, is concerned about strengthening his grip on power in advance of the very first production of the European Games in June 2015 and parliamentary elections in November 2015. The government eliminated the law on NGOs and is writing a new one. In the meantime, NGOs are not registered and have no permission to award grants, essentially freezing the bank accounts of activists who rely on funding. According to a new law on citizenship, it is now possible to lose one’s citizenship for harming state security. The government is applying the law indiscriminately to human rights activists. The regime recently arrested more human rights activists, including one who attempts to foster peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Other activists already have received long prison sentences for their supposed illegal activities. See http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/articles-and-commentary/1288-an-alarming-situation-in-azerbaijan.
The First World War a century ago had many causes, including the failure of diplomacy. Part of the difficulty was the inability of Germany and Russia to understand each other’s security concerns and their unwillingness to do everything they could to prevent conflict. An article in the Washington Post by Graham Allison of Harvard University explains the Willi-Nicki telegrams between Wilhelm II of Germany and Nicholas II on the eve of the war. For many historians, these telegrams and the events surrounding them demonstrate that Germany alone was not guilty for the war, which was not only the result of unimaginative diplomacy but also because of chauvinistic nationalism, stiff competition over colonies and markets, lingering tensions among the great powers, dissatisfaction with borders in the Balkans, unrestrained militarism, mistaken belief that technology would guarantee victory, and irresponsible journalists who stoked the fires of nationalism.
On 31 July, the Ukranian Rada agreed to fund the military and averted the country’s default, and it refused to accept the resignation of the government under Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk. A temporary income tax hike and other tax increases on tobacco, mining, oil, and gas industries will cover the financial needs of the military and other ministries. The country not only will benefit from a financial solution to its problems but also from keeping the adept Yatseniuk in office.
In light of the new sanctions the United States and European Union imposed on Russia, Moscow announced that it is prohibiting the import of Ukrainian fruit juice, dairy products, soy, and other products that are important Ukrainian exports to Russia. Other bans are on Polish fruits and vegetables, and the Russian government warned that other restrictions on food may be on the horizon, perhaps against Greece and the United States. It cited health concerns as the reason for the bans, which clearly are political.
See http://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-premier-stays-envoys-agree-crash-route-180508299--business.html; http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/30/us-europe-russia-trade-poland-idUSKBN0FZ12220140730; http://en.itar-tass.com/economy/742516; and http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/31/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-food-idUSKBN0G01HE20140731.
The European Commission approved €101 million to Moldova through the European Neighborhood Instrument to improve public finance policy as well as to modernize agriculture and to develop rural areas. The EU provided Moldova €30 million for improving small-business competitiveness. See http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-886_en.htm.
Both the United States and the European Union have expanded their sanctions against Russia. The EU has targeted crucial businesses, but it has allowed previous contracts to stand, which enables France to provide ships to the Russian Navy. Furthermore, the EU restricted aspects of trade with respect to Russia’s small oil industry while not targeting its gas industry. Europe is dependent on Russia for a large percentage of its natural gas. See http://online.wsj.com/articles/europe-u-s-significantly-expand-sanctions-against-russian-economy-1406666111.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has announced that its has made public the files of the United Nations War Crimes Commission Record of 1943-1949 that previously was available only to approved researchers, such as those from the US Justice Department who aided in the search for wartime criminals. The files, which are accessible in digital form only in the museum’s reading room, contain evidence on perpetrators of war crimes against Jews and others, mostly in Europe but also in Asia. Many of those accused of crimes never appeared in court for a number of reasons, including cold-war politics. Among those named is Hungary’s leader, Admiral Miklós Horthy (1868-1957), whose file includes evidence of involvement in crimes, even though historians recognize that his regime did not comply fully with Nazi extermination policies.
Information from the Holocaust Museum about the files is at http://www.ushmm.org/information/press/press-releases/museum-makes-united-nations-war-crimes-archive-public. The research aid for the fund is at http://collections.ushmm.org/findingaids/RG-67.041M.pdf. See http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_UN_WAR_CRIMES_ARCHIVE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT for the AP bulletin about the files.
On 26 July, at Bálványos Free University in the Székely community of Tusnádfürdő, or in Romanian, Băile Tuşnad, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, elaborated on his vision of a new Hungary that departs from the democratic heritage of its recent past, as stated in the transcription of the speech on Orbán’s website:
The Prime Minister declared that there is a global race to invent a state that is most suited to achieving the success of the nation. Today, the world is trying to understand systems that are not western, not liberal, perhaps not even democracies, but are nevertheless successful, and the “stars” of the analysts are Singapore, China, India, Russia and Turkey, he said.
Orbán went on to explain that “while breaking with the dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West, we are trying to find the form of community organization, the new Hungarian state, which is capable of making our community competitive in the great global race for decades to come.”
Replacing democracy, according to the narrative portion of the web pagte, is to be “a work-based state,” which “the Hungarian community competitive while respecting Christianity, freedom and human rights.”
Through legislation and other means, Hungary has become the least democratic state in the European Union, and efforts to persuade the Hungarian Fides party, which has more than a two-thirds majority in the parliament, to change its course have bee futile. With his 25 July speech, Orbán puts a more solid ideological context to his actions.
The United States has accused Russia of violating the terms of the 1987 when it tested a ground-launch cruise missile. Russia signed a new START treaty with the US in 2011, and President Barack Obama wants to ensure that it is not jeopardized. Obama wanted to sign yet another treaty with Russia to limit the use of nuclear weapons, but the current tensions between the two countries over Ukraine and other matters harm the likelihood of progress on that matter. See http://news.yahoo.com/us-russia-violated-1987-nuclear-missile-treaty-001309375--politics.html.
The United States Department of State released photographs showing the results of shelling from within Russia of Ukrainian military positions inside Ukraine. The Russians have denied taking such actions. See http://www.npr.org/assets/news/2014/07/Evidence-of-Russian-Firing-into-Ukraine.pdf; and http://news.yahoo.com/us-says-photos-show-russian-artillery-fired-ukraine-172832616.html.
There is related news about the situation in Russia, Central, and Eastern Europe.
The Ukrainian prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, resigned on 24 July because the Rada refused to pass a bill that would have allowed jointly owned foreign and Ukrainian companies to operate Ukraine’s gas pipeline system and because it did not pass legislation dealing with the budget. Two parties also left the governing coalition, which triggered the collapse of the government.
Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, supported the prime minister’s resignation, as do many in the country, because it necessitates early elections that will change the character of the Rada, the composition of which has remained the same since before the departure of Viktor Yanukovich this past February. Former supporters of Yanukovich are those responsible for the bottleneck in the Rada, and the expectation is that they will lose their seats in the elections Yatseniuk likely will remain as head of a caretaker government until after the elections. See http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/24/us-ukraine-crisis-parliament-idUSKBN0FT14U20140724.
European Union ambassadors added 15 individuals and 18 companies and organizations to the sanctions list and are closer to sanctions on Russian finances and trade deals involving military and dual-use goods that could benefit both the Russian military and civilian sectors, including energy. The ambassadors’ work will continue next week, and it is possible that a summit of European leaders may be necessary because of the negative impact sanctions would have at home as well as on Russia. See the Reuters feed at http://news.yahoo.com/eu-draw-legal-text-russia-sanctions-100657539.html.
New evidence demonstrates how Vladimir Putin’s policies incrementally raise the stakes in Ukraine. During a briefing on 24 July, a US State Department official remarked that the US government has credible new evidence that the Russians are targeting Ukrainian troops with their own artillery fired from inside Russia:
A Swiss gay magazine, Der Kreis (The Circle), published from 1932 to 1967, was the rallying point for gay culture in the Nazi era and provided the title and background for a movie about the lives of a Swiss gay couple who met in the 1950s. The award-winning film that mixes drama and documentary styles will premier at the LGBT Film Festival in New York this week. See http://www.filmlinc.com/daily/entry/newfests-the-circle-director-stefan-haupt.
On 24 July, the European Court of Human Rights found that Poland had cooperated with the American CIA to transport suspected terrorists to Poland, where they were subject to interrogation and torture. The court awarded € 230,000 to the two men involved, both of whom are being imprisoned without trial at Guantanamo See http://euobserver.com/justice/125103.
The City of Prague has reached a settlement with National Geographic which states that the latter will no longer distribute “Scam City: Prague,” which first aired in November 2012. Although National Geographic claims that the documentary is authentic, Prague police investigated the scenes depicted in the documentary and concluded that the production itself was a fraud. They claimed, for example, that paid actors served as scam artists, that a fraudulent taxi service in the film already did not exist for more than a year before the filming began, and that a seedy sex club featured in the documentary had closed well before the crew began its work. National Geographic has admitted that the documentary producers had scripted some scenes, but it refused to offer the general apology the city had requested.
Prague is no more dangerous than any other city for tourists. Those who are not careful about their surroundings, do not protect their belongings, engage in illicit deals, or even use unlicensed taxis will encounter problems. Otherwise, Prague is similar to any major city. At the time the National Geographic released its film, Prague was just behind Brussels in homicides, for example, with 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people. New York was twice as dangerous as Prague, and Caracas was 45 times more dangerous than Prague.
The documentary no longer is available, but a summary of its contents appears in http://www.prague-guide.co.uk/articles/national-geographic-depicted-prague-as-a-hotbed-of-crime.html. For the homicide statistics, see http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2012/nov/30/deadliest-cities-worldwide-murder-rates-interactive?guni=Graphic:in%20body%20link. News about the settlement between National Geographic and the City of Prague is at http://www.radio.cz/en/section/news/prague-and-national-geographic-reach-settlement.
On Tuesday, 22 July, the EU expanded the list of Russian individuals whose assets are frozen in the EU and who cannot travel to the EU. What is more surprising is that the foreign ministers now are considering so-called phase three sanctions, which would hit the entire Russian economy. In a leaked report, these sanctions have three intensities. The first low-intensity stage are luxury goods as well as some consumer and producer goods. The medium-intensity stage includes arms and dual-use items, which would effect France’s ability to supply Russia with war ships. The final high-intensity stage involves investments as well as oil and gas. See http://euobserver.com/foreign/125075 and http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/eu-foreign-ministers-confer-on-tougher-sanctions-against-russia/2014/07/22/05e1d794-1197-11e4-8936-26932bcfd6ed_story.html.
In light of the discussion about the possible reemergence of cold-war politics, it is interesting to note that the West (this author is conscious of using the old cold-war dichotomy of East-West) also has its propagandists who unnecessarily heighten tensions. For example, in a recent article in the New York Times, the historian Timothy Garton Ash described Putin as “a short, thickset man with a rather ratlike face.” Although the article contains some interesting perspectives, especially when one sifts through the thinly-veiled references to Adolf Hitler, it is surprising that the editors of this respected newspaper were not more circumspect. See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/opinion/sunday/protecting-russians-in-ukraine-has-deadly-consequences.html?_r=1.
The United States and the United Kingdom are pressuring the European Union to increase sanctions against Russia in the wake of the downing of flight MH17. Given the attitude of the Dutch, the majority of whom want to see a break of diplomatic relations with Moscow because of the deaths of 193 Dutch nationals in the indecent, more EU sanctions may be in the offing. It appears that the economic restrictions are beginning to put pressure on Putin. One indicator is the economic downturn the Russian economy is facing. It also appears that Russia’s wealthy business owners are opposing the country’s continued support of the separatists in Ukraine and the deteriorating relations with the West, although they fear retaliations if they publically express their opinions public.
“The clock has moved back to the 1980s,” according to Alexander Lebedev, a former Russian spy, opponent of Putin, and newspaper tycoon. Indeed, the cold war seems to have returned along with its ghosts of the past. The UK just has ordered a public inquiry into the 2006 death of Alexander Litvinenko, who inadvertently drank a fatal cocktail of tea that included polonium-210. Before his death, the former KGB spy and later MI6 operative blamed Putin for ordering his assassination.
See http://euobserver.com/foreign/125049; http://eu-digest.blogspot.com/2014/07/netherlands-majority-of-dutch.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FWwTPi+%28EU-DIGEST%29; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-20/russian-billionaires-in-horror-as-putin-risks-isolation.html; and http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/07/22/334025695/u-k-orders-inquiry-into-ex-kgb-spy-litvinenkos-death?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140722&utm_campaign=dailydigest&utm_term=nprnews.
On 20 July, the United Kingdom’s new foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, called for a renegotiation of the UK’s association with the European Union, stating that a referendum on membership would be in order: “The status quo is not in Britain’s interest and we have to negotiate - the way we’re doing this, if we have a Conservative government after the next election, there will be a referendum in 2017 so the British people will decide.”
There is a popular conception in Britain that the British have a bad deal with the EU, a notion that goes back several decades. There is a mechanism for a state to withdraw from the EU, and one cannot rule out the possibility that the British will face a referendum on the issue and that the detractors of the EU may win, despite the many benefits the EU provides British citizens and businesses. One must take seriously the latest Eurobarometer survey, dated December 2013, in which half of the UK population responded that they would be better off outside the EU–only the Cypriots were more skeptical. Furthermore, 67 percent of the respondents (one percentage point less than the previous Eurobarometer survey) stated that they did not trust the EU.
Noteworthy, though, is the timing of the current discussion. The UK referendum on the EU seems to be in the distant future–another three years. The next general election will take place on 5 May 2015, and there is no doubt that the Conservative party is beginning to posture in anticipation of the upcoming political contest. Even closer in time is the Scottish referendum on continued unity with Britain that will take place on 18 September 2014. Polls a year ago suggested that more Scotts would vote for independence if they thought that the UK would pull out of the EU, even though Scottish scepticism for the EU, at the time, was as strong as in the UK as a whole. Other polls suggest that 57 percent of Scotts believe that Scotland would be able to stay in the EU should they vote for independence and that only 25 percent actually want to leave the EU.
The political conundrum is why the Conservative party, which is campaigning to retain the union in Scotland, has decided to increase the rhetoric about leaving the EU shortly before the Scottish referendum, even though it is apparent that the threat of leaving the EU drives more Scotts to support independence.
Those who study the break up of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia naturally have an interest in the unity of other European states. The surge to independence strained the ethnic cleavage points in Central Europe and the Balkans, and it is apparent that other countries, like the UK and Spain, are not immune to similar trends. Before the division of Czechoslovakia, there were two notions about the EU. Some Czechs believed that it would be easier for them to gain entry into the EU without the Slovaks. Both Czechs and Slovaks who supported the continuation of Czechoslovakia quipped that the two ethnic groups separated in 1993 so that they could unite once again as individual member states in the EU. That is precisely what happened in 2004. One cannot discount the role perceptions of the EU may play in the Scottish vote.
Measuring how the Conservitives’ talk about withdrawing from the EU affects public opinion on the issue of the UK’s unity may be problematical, but talk of the 2017 referendum well may help seal the fate of the crucial vote that is just weeks away.
See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2698999/Britain-vote-Europe-Brussels-refuses-hand-powers-New-Foreign-Secretary-Philip-Hammond-says-current-relationship-unacceptable.html; http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/19/scotland-tough-call-uk-eu-referendums; http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb80/eb80_publ_en.pdf (especially pp. 67-68 and 76); http://whatscotlandthinks.org/questions/if-scotland-were-to-become-independent-would-it-be-allowed-to-be-part-of-the-eu#table; and http://whatscotlandthinks.org/questions/do-you-support-or-oppose-leaving-the-european-union.
President Vladimir Putin released a statement today that called on both sides in the Ukrainian crisis to resume negotiations and to facilitate the international investigation of the crash site of flight MH17. He added that “I believe that if military operations had not resumed in eastern Ukraine on June 28, this tragedy probably could have been avoided.” Otherwise, Putin’s remarks were stayed, suggesting that quiet negotiations between the United States, European Union, and other powers, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other hand, might be productive. The result could be that a solution for the crisis in Eastern Ukraine acceptable to Russia could result in Putin pressuring the separatists to accept an agreement with Kiev. Putin’s remarks are at http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/22701#sel=.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview with CNN on 20 July, presented strong evidence that the Ukrainian separatists had shot down Malaysian airlines flight MH17 with a surface-to-air missile that they had received from the Russians. Kerry stated that the United States government has evidence that a convoy of supplies, including rocket launchers, came from Russia to the separatist region several days before the event. In addition to providing other information, Kerry explained that the separatists had boasted of having shot down a transport plane on social media but removed the post when it was clear that what they had struck was a civilian airliner. He was more circumspect on the issue of whether the Russians were “culpable,” for example, because they may have trained the separatists to use the equipment. He reiterated the American call for an official investigation. See http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1407/20/sotu.01.html.
Ukraine, the separatists, and the Russians continue to trade barbs about the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane that killed 298 passengers and crew. Ukrainians claim the three-man crew that shot down the plane was Russian, and separatists would not let an international inspection crew on the site, and many fear they will tamper with evidence. The flight recorders may tell little because the plane had been flying normally when the surface-to-air missile struck it. See http://news.yahoo.com/obama-says-downing-plane-wake-call-europe-over-032729098--finance.html.
A Malaysian passenger plane with 295 on route to Amsterdam was shot down over rebel territory in Eastern Ukraine. All on board perished. The Ukrainian government stated that it had not fired on any targets in the air and that the rebels shot down the plane with a Buk missile launcher. The country’s president called the downing an act of terrorism. A separatist leader stated that he was unaware if the separatist fighters owned a Buk missile launcher or if they had the skill to fire it. See http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_UKRAINE_PLANE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2014-07-17-12-47-41.
A second Ukrainian jet flying over its own territory in Eastern Ukraine was shot down today. The Ukrainian government claims that an air-to-air missile from a Russian aircraft struck the plane, whose pilot safely ejected. Separatist rebels claim to have downed a Ukrainian plane yesterday. See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28345039.
The Russian federal government is planning on investing once more in the Baikal-Amur Mainline Railroad, which began in the Soviet Era. The question is whether there will be a sufficient return on investments, especially since the funds for the project will come from the account which guarantees the country’s pension system. See http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-07-11/putin-s-costly-trip-down-memory-lane.
Workers in Greece are discovering what American workers already know: the ability to strike in a democracy is a right easily lost. American unionized labor discovered in the latter half of the twentieth century that businesses relocated away from states with strong unions, and in the early years of the twenty-first century, public employees began losing their right to strike through legislation in states where such regressive laws were unthinkable in the past Without the right to strike, unions become nearly powerless. Over the years, businesses also were effective in their public relations campaign to convince the public that unions were corrupt, self-serving, bad for productivity, socialist, and even communist (in reality, free unions did not exist in communist states). As a result, it is not surprising that, in 2014, a unionizing effort at a Volkswagen assembly plant in Tennessee failed, even though the company supported unionization (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/14/united-auto-workers-union_n_4792424.html).
Now, it appears that European workers are beginning to experience the same trend. In a desperate attempt to solve the economic crisis in Greece, the country agreed to privatize certain industries, even though privatization in certain often means more expensive and less effective social services. On the block is the Public Power Corporation, but the union that represents workers at PPC has organized strikes to stop the sale of the government-owned company. In response, the government removed the right to strike for PPC’s 19,000 workers. Allowing this blatant attack against unions to stand will set a precedent for additional restrictions on the right to organize, even though European Law guarantees it. The question is whether the Greek government and the citizens of the country will have the stamina to defend all aspects of the right to unionize after the tense demonstrations associated with the severe economic crisis the country faced this past decade and the efforts of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission, the so-called Troika, to impose what often were counterproductive austerity measures on Greece. See http://euobserver.com/opinion/124952.
The US Census Bureau has released a study on the sorts of jobs college majors take after graduating. It is no surprise that those who major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields find employment in their respective fields of study, but it is telling that more than half of those who complete STEM majors do not find employment in STEM fields. For those majoring in the social sciences, it is reassuring to know that they, like their counterparts in the STEM fields, will take employment in fields that are not directly related to their majors. For those majors in the broad field of social sciences, large numbers end up employed in management, business, legal, education, service, sales, and office support fields. Unfortunately, the statistical tables the Census Bureau provided that accompany the study do not permit specific correlations because the categories in the tables do not correspond precisely to those in the interactive graphic.
The tables for the study are at http://www.census.gov/people/io/publications/table_packages.html. An interactive graphic is available at http://www.census.gov/dataviz/visualizations/stem/stem-html/. A description of the study is at http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/employment_occupations/cb14-130.html.
In early parliamentary elections, Slovenians have given a victory to the six-week-old Party of Miro Cerar (SMC), whose creator, Miro Cerar, is a fifty-year-old law professor and a newcomer to politics. SMC won 34.8 percent of the votes and likely will turn to the Social Democrats and other parties to build a coalition government. Slovenia faces austerity measures, and Cerar opposes certain privatization plans the previous government had arranged. The economic crisis in Slovenia, which joined the eurozone in 2007, began with the 2008 world economic downturn. See http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/13/us-slovenia-election-idUSKBN0FH0Y320140713.
Anyone who has traveled internationally before 11 September 2001 and afterward is well aware of the heightened level of security at in American airports and on flights to America. It is far more intense than what one finds in other countries, even less democratic ones. American travelers question whether they are any safer or if the American homeland benefits from such heightened levels of security. In the recent past, more serious questions arose with America’s security regime, in part from the knowledge that the NSA has been monitoring the communications of an enormous numbers of citizens and that Americans have eavesdropped on allied leaders.
Now, Americans have been caught in another spying scandal in Germany and risk of losing German confidence and friendship. Furthermore, it comes at a time when NATO as well as EU-US solidarity are essential in confronting Russia’s challenge to Ukrainian sovereignty and integrity.
As a commentator for Deutsche Welle stated, “much of the scope and style of current American spying activities certainly have their origin in the September 2001 terrorist attacks.” It is time for Americans to rethink our approach to ourselves and our allies with respect to the war on terrorism. Without positive change, our country will lack credibility with the countries it needs to guarantee our security, and our own citizens will lose faith in our own government and its political process.
Russia proposed that it become a third party to the European Union-Ukrainian partnership agreement in a move that effectively would give Russia a veto in the implementation of any specific policies or future agreements. Both the EU and Ukraine have rejected Russia’s attempt to limit Ukraine’s sovereignty and hamstring the EU in its dealings with Ukraine. Furthermore, accepting the arrangement would set a precedent for EU relations with Moldova and Georgia. Despite the rebuff, Russia hopes that EU member states that are sympathetic to Russian interests will help advance the proposal.
Meanwhile, in Eastern Ukraine, near the city of Sverdlovsk, pro-Russian separatists used rocket launchers on 11 July to kill approximately 30 Ukrainian soldiers. Amnesty International also reports that separatists have persecuted centralist supporters in areas that they hold.
Pew Research released a global survey of attitudes about Russia that is troubling news for Moscow. Negative opinions about Russia have increased throughout the world, particularly in the United States and Europe. Increases also are apparent in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin also has dropped. He remains popular in Russia as well as Bangladesh, China, Ghana, India, Kenya, Philippines, Tanzania, and Vietnam, although at times the differences in percentage points between those who have confidence in Putin and those who do not is slim. In Ukraine, 73 percent have no confidence in Putin, while 23 percent do (approximately 5 percent are unsure), and Putin has the confidence of 83 percent of Russians (14 percent have no confidence in him and 3 percent are unsure).
The implications of the survey are important for international business. The negative image of Puting and Russia with respect to the crisis in Ukraine is hurting Russian business, and Russian investors are losing confidence in their own country’s economy. There was no growth in the second quarter of 2014, and $75 billion in capital has fled Russia this year, a number that is greater than the $62.7 billion that left the country in all of 2013.
Sources in the European Union state that the EU is about to add eleven names to the boycott list of those who support the separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine. The EU also released a statement that Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, and Ukraine are in line with the EU regarding actions involving the Ukraine crisis (the parties reached an agreement on this matter several weeks before). See http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-07-10/eu-said-to-add-11-names-to-russia-ukraine-sanctions-list and http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/143686.pdf.
During and after the collapse of any unpopular regime, its symbols disappear. The statue of the United Kingdom’s King George III (1738-1820; reigned 1760-1820) in New York City, for example, was one fo the first a crowd pulled down after the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence. Similarly, after 1989, symbols of communist rule disappeared throughout the former Eastern Europe. One on the road from Prague to České Budějovice had the word peace inscribed in Czech and Russian. First, it lost its inscription, and then the concrete sculpture was demolished. Quicker to disappear were the statues to Nikolai Lenin (1870-1924), Karl Marx (1818-1883), and Friedrich Engels (1920-1895).
A controversy rages in the former East German town of Schwerin, where a statue of Lenin, perhaps the last in Germany, commemorates the Soviet decree on land, which granted the lands of the great estates and church to the peasants and abolished land ownership. Schwerin’s mayor wants to preserve the statue as part of the city’s historical past, but opponents want to remove the painful reminder of the communist era.
The member states of the European Union have no clear policy on selling arms to Russia in response to the crisis in Ukraine. For example, Germany imposes a ban on the sale of military equipment to Russia, but France is steaming ahead with the sale of two warships to the Russian Navy. This fractured policy may encourage Russia, and Europe’s lack of unity may make the EU more conscious of coordinating such policy in the future. The embargo that Russia may feel the most, however, comes not from the EU but from Ukraine. Russia depends on Ukraine for a great deal of industrial goods, including guidance systems for nuclear missiles and helicopter engines. If Russia invades Ukraine, retreating Ukrainian forces may destroy the production facilities, and the time and expense that the Russians would have to invest in replacing them would be enormous. Although the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, may appear brash, he is pragmatic. Ukrainian military-industrial production destined for Russia may be the trump card the Ukrainians hold in forcing Russia to end their support for pro-Russian separatists.
The fighting continues in Eastern Ukraine, with no clear winner. It appears, however, that Ukrainian forces slowly are capturing separatist-held villages, and Ukrainian forces have captured the separatist stronghold of Slovyansk. Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, reiterated his willingness to negotiate with the separatists this past weekend, but they continue to appear uninterested in making concessions. The separatists now are concentrating their efforts on holding the industrial city of Donetsk, which is much larger than Slovyansk.
As the fighting escalated in the spring, the number of Ukrainians seeking asylum in the EU has increased dramatically from about 100 per month to 600-700 per month. Far more Ukrainian citizens, presumably Russian speakers, have crossed the border into Russia–a total of about 110,000, according to the United Nations.
See http://euobserver.com/defence/124883; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/world/europe/ukraine-and-rebels-clash-in-slovyansk.html?_r=0; http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/04/us-ukraine-crisis-poroshenko-ashton-idUSKBN0F91PM20140704; http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-07-08/don-t-bomb-donetsk?cmpid=yhoo; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/04/ukraine-wants-talks-as-fighting-continues/12212979/; and http://euobserver.com/justice/124888.
Because of Moldova’s signature of a partnership pact with the European Union, Russia has banned the importation of Moldovan processed meat. For the most part, however, Moldova sends unprocessed meat to Russia, so the retaliation is somewhat symbolic. About 2,500 Russian troops and a munitions depot are in Transnistria, a breakaway republic from Moldova, but Russia does not appear to be destabilizing the small area. See http://euobserver.com/foreign/124860.
The former Soviet foreign minister from 1981 to 1991 and the first president of Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union until 2003, Eduard Shevardnadze, died on 7 July at the age of 86. See http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/07/us-georgia-shevardnadze-idUSKBN0FC0OQ20140707.
Bulgarians are facing a second run on its leading banks, despite the fact that there is no financial crisis. The Socialist party is concerned that its political opponents are attempting to destabilize its government after its poor showing in the elections to the European Parliament and the controversial appointment of a leading Turkish minority politician as the head of the country’s security forces. See http://euobserver.com/economic/124807.